Background: Folic acid fortification of flour has significantly decreased the incidence of neural tube defects (NTDs). We aimed at examining whether Ontario women of child-bearing age exhibit protective levels of RBC folate.
Methods: We reviewed laboratory databases on RBC folic acid from pre and post fortification years. The data included age, gender, RBC folate, hemoglobin, mean cell volume and pregnancy test. We examined a sub-set of females at ages 14-45 years who were non-anemic and normocytic. Complete protection against NTD was defined as RBC folate concentration above 900 nmol/L.
Results: In 2006, 40% of the women of child-bearing age and 36% of pregnant women, exhibited RBC folate levels below 900 nmol/L, rendering them sub-optimally protected against NTD.
Conclusion: A considerable proportion of pregnant women is still at risk of having a baby with NTD. This should be remedied by increasing the mandatory concentrations of folic acid required in flour, complemented by public education and increasing the folic acid in prenatal supplements.